LEE COUNTY — When faculty started arriving at brand-new Florida Gulf Coast University 13 years ago — most without the promise of ever earning tenure — the allure of building something from scratch drew many.
In some regards, FGCU can still make that case. It has an ever-expanding slate of programs and a rapidly growing campus, but circumstances have changed, said professor Madelyn Isaacs.
“Faculty who stay are either staying because they can’t leave or because they have other commitments in the community,” said Isaacs, a counseling professor in the College of Education. “We’ve got a real challenge — maybe not this year or next year when the economy is still dicey, but in the next four years, you’ve got a real challenge when you’re not competing for every faculty member. We don’t have tenure, we don’t have traditional protection.”
Isaacs said the tenureless system is pairing with another entirely different issue at the university of pay inversion. It happens when the pay scale gets turned upside down and newer hires make more money than senior faculty members. Together, Isaacs said, the dual issues may be creating something of a perfect storm that could hurt FGCU’s ability to draw and keep the best professors.
Faculty have had minimal to no raises in the last three years, Isaacs said, which is leading professors and instructors to feel undervalued — and combined with the lack of tenure there, underprotected.
University administrators have declined to discuss the issue of pay scale because it is part of ongoing contract negotiations.
“I’m just not going to go there,” said Provost Ronald Toll, when asked whether he thinks inversion is an issue at FGCU.
But, Toll pointed to other signs of FGCU’s vibrancy, and its efforts to shield faculty and staff from the sharper edges of last year’s economic free-fall.
“We’re very proud of the fact here at FGCU that we have not laid off one employee — not one staff member, not one faculty employee,” Toll said. “I would think one of the most important things about morale and people feeling confident is we weren’t dealing in gloom and doom. We chose not to start painting those tremendously negative scenarios that might have come to fruition.”